Twitter Follower Limits – A Bane For Self Published Authors

Understanding Twitter Follow LimitsStuck at 2,000,5,000, the Twitter follower limit?

This article has been updated as Twitter has now increased the basic follow limit to 5,000.

There is no doubt that Twitter has become one of the most popular social media platforms for self-published authors and small publishers to promote their books. Unfortunately, Twitter sometimes seems to be making it a little more difficult to spread the word.

Twitter is almost infamous in making their Twitter rules and best practices extremely vague, bordering on impossible to understand, let alone define. As we all would like more followers, and ergo, more prospects to sell our books, what do these Twitter follower limits and rules mean?

Following (daily): The technical follow limit is 1,000 per day. Please note that this is a technical account limit only, and there are additional rules prohibiting aggressive following behavior. Details about following limits and prohibited behavior are on the Follow Limits and Best Practices page. 

Every Twitter account is technically unable to follow more than 1,000 users per day, in addition to the account-based limits above. Please note that this is just a technical limit to prevent egregious abuse from spam accounts.

So, is the daily follow limit 1,000 or not? Who knows.

To follow one or two additional users, unfollow a few accounts you’re currently following. Please note, however, that regularly following and unfollowing many accounts at a time is a violation of the Twitter Rules and can result in account suspension.

How many are many? Like, is this daily, weekly or monthly? And what exactly is regular?

What is clear, though, is that Twitter does suspend accounts for churning.

What is aggressive follow churn?

If you decide to follow someone and then change your mind later, you can just visit the person’s profile page and un-follow them. Aggressive follow churn is when an account repeatedly follows and then un-follows a large number of users. This may be done to get lots of people to notice them, to circumvent a Twitter limit, or to change their follower-to-following ratio. These behaviors negatively impact the Twitter experience for other users, are common spam tactics, and may lead to account suspension. 

While trying to understand and interpret these Twitter rules and guidelines over the years, I have somehow managed to use Twitter, and stay out of any trouble, until recently, even though I am very careful to avoid churning.

The latest Twitter rule mystery seems to be a change in Twitter’s approach to following. I manage a number of Twitter accounts, and since 2009, I have used a simple routine of following around 100 or so like-minded users, and unfollowing inactive accounts and those who have unfollowed each account. Usually around 70-80. It has been a successful formula and way, way below the mysterious technical daily limit of 1,000, which Twitter so often states. That is, until a while ago. All of a sudden, I started receiving the following warning on my Twitter accounts on an almost daily basis.

“For security purposes, your account has been locked.
 Because we detected unusual activity, we locked your account to keep it safe. Go to the email associated with your Twitter account to unlock it “

The email contained a link, and the solution to this ‘account locking’ was to change the password on the Twitter account, and everything worked again. However, it did not say why the account was locked.

After a lot of investigation, and disabling third-party apps, making changes to my WordPress posting on Twitter, and changing every single connection I have with Twitter, and then still received the same warning, I contacted Twitter Support. This was about as useful as fitting an ashtray to a motorcycle.

 We’ve taken a look at your account and it looks like this issue is resolved. If not, just reply to this email and we’ll help you out. Otherwise, have an awesome day!
 If you have another question, you can always check our Help Center:
 Happy tweeting!
 Twitter Support

No, I am not having an awesome day, thanks to you. Thanks for your no care at all, copy and pasted nothing answered at all reply that said I have no problem, because it is somehow mysteriously resolved.

By the way, I replied, saying I wasn’t happy with the explanation but received the same ‘Have an awesome day’ response. I gave up on Twitter Support.

So what is causes the Twitter distaste for those who follow? No one knows except for Twitter, but I have a feeling it’s a new algorithm they are trying, which does not suspend an account, which was how Twitter used to handle over aggressive following, but now makes a user change their password so often that it makes the process of following users a pain in the butt, even though you may be well within their follow limits.

Douglas Adams would love this conundrum

For some reason, Twitter has seemingly changed the rules, which of course no one knew about before because they were impossible to understand, but now there is a new rule, which no one knows about or understands either. Quite simple really. I have a feeling my literary hero, Douglas Adams, would have quite enjoyed considering this silly conundrum.

The lesson from my recent and often ongoing experience with Twitter is that as with all free services on the Internet, you use them at the whim of the companies who own them and they make the rules. No matter how difficult these rules and guidelines may be to understand.

Earlier this year, Google made a fundamental change to the way they indexed web pages, which affected millions of websites, and many quite adversely. But this is the way the Internet works. It changes, day by day.

The lesson to learn is not to put all your eggs in one basket and to make sure that your book and author promotion is spread across as many platforms and sites as possible. Don’t rely solely on Twitter and Facebook, as your accounts are only online while you don’t break the rules.

That you don’t know or aren’t informed of the rules makes no difference. Locking or suspension of accounts on Twitter and Facebook can happen and happens regularly to many users who thought they were acting within the rules. So don’t rely on thinking that you know what the rules are.

They have probably changed since you last read them anyway.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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